Entering the Mayor’s office on January 1, 2015 meant a substantial paradigm shift from a Chamber President trying to influence local, state, and federal government to an elected official trying to see the big picture and balancing a variety of community’s priorities and expectations.
Expectations. That’s a pesky word. As community leaders, we often deal with “high expectations.” Moreover, good leaders know that people and teams will rise or fall to the level of expectation.
So, how can your organization live up to and surpass expectations? Let’s go back to my first day as Mayor. It marked 598 days until my city would be the official home of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. And, at that time, our city didn’t have a plan but did have high expectations about what that “could” mean to our community.
We are a city of just over 32,000 in a county of 70,000. We have the stores, restaurants, and hotel rooms for a community our size. But, we were being told to prepare to triple or quadruple our population for this once in a lifetime experience of a Total Solar Eclipse.
As a firm believer in the notion that failing to plan is planning to fail, we initiated a discussion of community stakeholders and began developing our strategic plan for what we would begin calling “E Day” in my community.
Our vision was for Hopkinsville to be the location of choice for Eclipse chasers and to provide visitors and residents alike with a once in a lifetime experience that would inspire them to want to come back to visit and/or stay in our city while maximizing the economic impact and showcasing our Hopkinsville hospitality.
We had competition throughout the United States as the Eclipse path ran from Oregon to South Carolina. We were guaranteed nothing except being the point of greatest eclipse which happens to be a very important designation.
To maximize our effort, we implemented a five step strategic planning process:
- Begin with the end in mind
- Answer the why
- Know your environment
- Set goals and action steps that can be measured
- Resource the plan
Two decisions served as the catalyst for our effort. One, we adopted the name Eclipseville for all of our marketing purposes. Two, we made the decision to contract with Mrs. Brooke Jung, our “Eclipse Coordinator”, who would help coordinate all of our logistics, planning, and communication regarding the Eclipse. These two moves showed we were serious about the Eclipse and wanted everyone to enjoy it with us. They helped us transform into Eclipseville.
Nearly 120,000 visitors from 47 states and 25 countries visited my community during the Solar Eclipse resulting in almost $30 million in economic impact and a host of good will from locals and visitors. We have received tremendous international publicity, recognition, and awards for our effort. We’ve seen many repeat visitors and have even had some folks move to our city as a result of their experience.
Hopkinsville will never be the same. By using strategic thinking, we turned a once-in-a-lifetime scientific experience into a community transformation that helped us eclipse all expectations.